August 16, 2019
Beis Moshiach in #1178, 20 Av, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, Story

Presented for Chof Av, the day that Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, the Rebbe’s father, passed away.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was born on 18 Nissan in Russia in 1878. At a young age, he displayed unusual talents in Torah study. When he grew up, he married Rebbetzin Chana, the daughter of the Chassid Rabbi Meir Shlomo Yanovsky, rav of the city Nikolaev in the Ukraine.

For ten years R’ Levi Yitzchok sat and learned Torah and then he was asked to be the rav in Yekaterinoslav in central Ukraine, when the rav there passed away. However, the local Zionists (Jews who went off the derech and fought religious Jews) did not want a rav like him. Why?

They were afraid that if R’ Levi Yitzchok would be appointed the rav, he would fight against them along with the Rebbe Rashab who fought against them with all his might.

The Rebbe Rashab wanted very much for R’ Levi Yitzchok to become the rav. He wrote a letter to one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in the city, who was very influential. The man’s name was Shemarya. He had grown up in a Chassidic home but had gone off the derech and joined the Zionists. He even changed his name to Sergei Volfowitz. He ran a large windmill and was very rich. Although he gone away from the ways of Chassidus, he still had a warm spot in his heart for the Rebbe and Chassidus.

The Rebbe’s letter touched his heart and he invited R’ Levi Yitzchok to his house. Their conversation lasted six hours! The rich man was impressed and he joined the battle to have R’ Levi Yitzchok appointed.

For an entire year, he fought with his Zionist friends until he was successful. The Rebbe Rashab was very happy and wrote a thank you letter for his help.

R’ Levi Yitzchok served as rav for thirty years and fought on behalf of every holy thing. He strengthened the Torah institutions in the city and particularly looked out for the youth.

When he discovered there were problems with the mikva and it could not be used, he convened the leaders of the community and explained to them how serious this was.

The leaders of the community said, “We don’t have the money to fix the mikva.”

The young rav took off his new coat that he recently bought and said, “I’m giving this coat to provide the first money to renovate the mikva. This coat was expensive.”

The leaders of the community looked at one another in surprise and could not refuse and they got to work on the mikva.

R’ Levi Yitzchok also strongly fought the government. For example, before Pesach, he received an order from the government to sign that all the flour and matzos being baked in the area were kosher for Pesach. “If you don’t sign,” they warned him, “we will accuse you of harming government property, because people won’t buy the flour without your stamp of approval and we will lose a lot of money.”

R’ Levi Yitzchok said, “I won’t sign!”

He added, “Only if you allow me to send G-d fearing supervisors all over will I sign that it’s kosher. If you don’t permit this, I will sent letters to all the Jews and inform them that this year, the flour is not under my supervision.”

The government tried pressuring him but to no avail. R’ Levi Yitzchok remained strong and their threats did not move him. When the government saw that it would not convince him, they spoke to the president (or his advisors) and amazingly, they were told to listen to R’ Levi Yitzchok and do as he asked.

That year, all the matzos that were baked by the government were made with kosher flour, under the supervision of R’ Levi Yitzchok!

Decades passed. The night of 9 Nissan 5699/1939, policemen pounded at his door. They took his holy sefarim and ordered him to come along with them.

For a period of time he was in prison under difficult conditions for the “crime of spreading Judaism.” There too, he remained strong. He did not agree to sign and admit to any crimes despite the torture and everyone saw that he was a holy man.

After a while, he was sentenced to a difficult exile in Kazakhstan. He was sent there on a terribly crowded train. That part did not bother him; what bothered him was the lack of water for washing his hands. Water was rationed and was enough for drinking but R’ Levi Yitzchok gave up his drinking water for the mitzva of netilas yodayim.

He suffered tremendously in exile. The town of Chili where he was, was marshy and full of mosquitoes. The houses were full of mold and unbearable odors. In the winter, the cold was dreadful. He was in this terrible exile for over four years. Then he was released and moved to Alma Ata.

He was weak and sick and passed away on Chof Av.


We will conclude with a miracle story of R’ Levi Yitzchok that was discovered in recent years.

R’ Boruch Cooperman was born in Russia, while R’ Levi Yitzchok was the rav. When he was born,  he was blue and the doctor said he had a serious problem with his heart.

“I am sorry to inform you but the chances that this baby will live are very slim.”

The worried parents asked R’ Levi Yitzchok for a bracha. R’ Levi Yitzchok heard what the doctor said and he said, “Don’t worry. He will live for seventy years.”

The parents were happy to hear this and indeed, the baby slowly recovered, to the amazement of all the doctors. The parents did not tell their son about this miracle because they did not want him to know that he had seventy years to live.

Time passed and when the parents became old they felt they had to tell their son thanks to whom he was alive. They told him what happened.

A short time later, R’ Boruch celebrated his seventieth birthday. After that, he would say that each additional day that he lived was a gift from Hashem and he was happy.

He died of an illness at the age of 71.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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